Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Going to School on the Bike

After two failed attempts due to snow and then being sick, I finally completed my bike test. I finally met up with Ken Welsh of Midwest Triathlon Coaching at the Ultramax Store, which is his official unofficial "training center".

There are a few bikes in the basement of the Ultramax Store where they do the "Power Hour" spin class.

So let's get to the test, which involves a 15 - 20 minute warm up before kicking off 30 minutes of racing/time trailing/screaming on the bike and then blacking out cooling down. Only the last 20 minutes of the test is used to obtain the results, which is your lactate threshold for heart rate and functional threshold power for wattage.  Yes, wattage is exactly what it sounds like.  Had I been hooked up to a generator it would indicate how much wattage of a lightbulb I could power.

So I brought the legs, bike, and music while Coach Ken brought the encouragement and equipment, which there was a ton of it.  A CompuTrainer (which is as technical as it sounds) and a Tanita weight/body composition scale.  The scale was pretty sweet and I may have to look into getting one as it indicated body fat %, body hydration score, basil metabolic rate, metabolic age, and a few other things.  If I had my own scale, I could use my Garmin watch to wireless sync the scale's data to online data for historical analysis. The scale transmits the data to the watch and the watch syncs it online.

The CompuTrainer is a bike trainer that hooks up to a laptop and the bike.  The software will show you a computerized cyclist on a course (this was the Ironman Challenge Penticton bike course visual but the Ironman Florida elevation data).  The computer adds resistance to the trainer to reflect uphill sections.  Really cool and rather expensive stuff.

The CompuTrainer, and only partly hooked up.

Not having a clue how to manage this bike test, I asked Coach Ken what I should focus on.  Mashing it out or high cadence.  He pointed out the focus is on the Power Meter and getting the highest wattage possible.  Pacing myself would also be a challenge as I've never done something like this.

After the warmup, Ken hit the music (first up, Metallica's Fuel) and I was off.  I did my best not to kill myself in the first five minutes but it was still hard.  I focused on that power meter but it was so much easier to look at my Garmin under my nose.  The heart rate started to rise and I was keeping the cadence over 100.  I looked at the power meter as often as I could manage to lift my head up to see the computer screen.

Eventually "A little Less Conversation", the JXL Remix, kicked off and I was into the second five minutes.  I noticed my average mph was very similar to that of the KC Corporate Challenge bike race average speed.  Speed indoors doesn't matter as much but I could imagine I was going through similar pain.

Coach Ken took this video of me suffering. 

"Livin My Love", Steve Aoki Featuring LMFAO & Nervo started the actual test at the 10 minute mark.  I was still pumping along but I needed to switch something up.  I was in aero the entire time.  So now I was going to do 2 minutes aero and one minutes sitting up but I had to keep pumping hard sitting up.  It wasn't a rest interval.  It was just to switch things around.  (Note: TKB's cousin has a writer's credit on this song.  He helped engineer the entire album, which was nominated for a Grammy!  Give it a listen!)

Coach Ken started recording power and heart rate rating on paper and I kept pushing along.  Green Day's "American Idiot" got me to the halfway point.  My legs were screaming.  Maybe I did mash out the first five minutes or maybe this just sucks.  I do remember feeling slightly concerned about needing a puke bucket at this point but there was no way I could talk.  I saw my heart rate spike to 181.  Ouch.

Please help me.
Metallica's "Ride The Lightning" and it was time for a little air conditioning.  Zip open the cycling jersey to get some of the wind from the fan.  Eyes were shut.  There wasn't anything to look at because in aero position with my head in the down position, the inside of my glasses were two ponds of sweat.

Metallica's "Trapped Under Ice".  Almost there... almost there.  My legs were screaming.  My cadence had dropped under 100 and I could sorta see my wattage drooping.  NOT GOOD!  Push push push.

Only a couple minutes left...  Appropriately, Metallica's Harvester of Sorrow brings it home.  I was done done done.

I'm still waiting the official results from Coach Ken but all I can say is that this is giving me a baseline number to train with.  I don't have a Power Meter (I will be looking to get one before I officially start training for my next Ironman) but the heart rate numbers will be a great driver of training zones from here on out.  I've talked about training zones (Zone 2 or Z2, Zone 3, Zone 4, etc) and this will help define those zones instead of the guessing game I've been playing for the past few years.

While this is a bike test, there is an industry accepted approach to translating this to running zones.  Bike zones are typically 10 BPM slower than the run.  So if my bike threshold is roughly 164, that means my run threshold is roughly 174.

Yes, I could do a similar test running on a track but as Ken pointed out, athletes tend to wear out mentally before physically while running.  That's fine, I'm good with not doing this again.

Oh... and according to that fancy pants scale, I have a metabolic age of a 20 year old.  Not sure what that means, but maybe I should put down this whiskey.

If you want to learn more about this test, feel free to read up here on Joel Friel's blog.

Finally....  holding on for dear life during this test = new bar tape:


  1. Uh, numbers? FTP? haha you should check into trainer road. They have a lot of useful plans and rides that you can do if you know your FTP. That 30 min test suuuuucks....

  2. I have definitely been looking into trainer road; however, my current trainer doesn't show up in their database and I'm too lazy to find an equivalent one. and spending too much money right now to buy a new one.

    FTP Numbers? Well, let me just say that KCP&L left me a voicemail message this morning....